As we have been examining the Biblical Worldview for these months we have looked at the initial lessons that God was teaching the Hebrews in their early days as his adopted children. Many of these lessons formed the early Jewish economic system and helped the Hebrews to identify a sense of “capital” which was separate from the individual.
So we have connected what God was teaching the Hebrews in Old Testament times to what is identified as the principles of capitalism today. It is a historic fact that the principles of capitalism are a part of the Judeo-Christian ethic. Notice I am talking about the “principles” of capitalism and not necessarily capitalism as we see it today. So what is our working definition? I will use Harold Eberle’s definition:
“When we say capitalism we are referring to an economic system that allows people to own personal property and benefit from their own labor, wisdom, education and experience. It is based on the understanding that an individual must be responsible for his or her own success. People should be able to use what they have accumulated – their capital – and have it produce more wealth for them. This means that a person who invented a tool should be able to use that tool to produce wealth…Capitalism is the economic system which has allowed individuals to be creative (in the image of God) and industrious, thus producing the abundance we see in the modern Western world today. It has allowed the human spirit freedom to release its potential, resulting in the advancement of society in almost every area, including agriculture, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, communication and technology.”
Let’s note that the Biblical form of capitalism goes hand-in-hand with compassionate social values, including the care for widows, the elderly and orphans. God also instilled certain restrictions on capitalism to protect his people from abuses and oppression because capitalism does have a negative side, which we will examine next week. The Christian should take advantage of the principles of capitalism, but also know that capitalism must be governed wisely and incorporate compassion.